The Right to Food Campaign welcomes the Supreme Court’s order to provide ration cards to migrant/unorganised workers registered under the eShram portal. The Supreme Court in an order dated April 20, 2023, in MA 94/2022 in ‘Re Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers’, has given significant directions to ensure food security for migrant workers and unorganised sector workers. 28.60 crores migrants/unorganized workers are registered on the eShram portal, of which 20.63 crores are registered on ration card data. The order directs all State/UT governments to issue ration cards under NFSA to the 8 crore persons who are registered on the eShram portal but do not possess ration cards. Due to not possessing ration cards, a large number of migrant/unorganized labourers and their families have been deprived of access to subsidized food grains and other schemes under the National Food Security Act.
The coverage under NFSA was to be updated as per the latest published census figures, however as the census of 2021 has been postponed indefinitely and no date has been notified regarding the publication of the same, more than 10 crore people who should have been issued ration cards have been left out of the purview of the food security net.
The relevant portion of the order is reproduced below-
“… out of 28.60 registrants on eShram 20.63 crores are registered on ration card data. Meaning thereby, the rest registrants on eShram are still without ration cards. Without the ration card, a migrant/unorganized labourer or his family members may be deprived of the benefit of the schemes and maybe the benefit under the National Food Security Act. Therefore, being a welfare State, it is the duty of the concerned State/UT to see that the remaining registrants on eShram, who are still not registered on ration card data and who are not issued the ration cards, are issued ration cards and the exercise for issuance of ration cards is required to be expedited. As the Union of India and the concerned State/UT now already have the data of the registrants on the eShram portal and will be having the required information, the State/UT shall reach out to them so that they can be issued the ration cards and that their names are registered on ration card data.
- At present, we give a further three months’ time to the concerned State/UT to undertake the exercise to issue ration cards to the left-out registrants on the eShram portal by giving wide publicity and the concerned State/UT to approach them through the office of the concerned Collector of the District so that more and more registrants on eShram portal are issued the ration cards and so that they may get the benefit of the benevolent schemes floated by the UOI and the State Government including the benefit under the National Food Security Act. We order accordingly.”
The Right to Food Campaign demands–
- All States and Union territories must immediately undertake the exercise, as directed by the SC, to issue ration cards to 8 crore migrant/unorganised sector workers who are registered on e-shram but do not possess a ration card.
- Governments must universalise access to PDS for all migrant/unorganised sector workers and provide ration cards without putting in place multi-fold and complex inclusion/exclusion criteria including any income criteria. Adoption of complicated criteria ends up excluding people as they are often unable to furnish the necessary documentation including residence proof, aadhaar card, electricity bills, etc. These persons are among the most economically vulnerable sections of society and must be included under the ambit of the NFSA.